How visual art provides insight to writing

How visual art provides insight to writing


A few days ago I introduced you to my villain Kerphulu with a picture. The thing is, I met him myself only hours beforehand despite knowing him for over a year. Sounds strange? Well let me explain.

I have been writing about Kerphulu since September 2013. The novel-in-progress “Tempting in Shade” simply describes Kerphulu in physical terms as a short, sinewy, red-headed man with short-cropped hair and a sense of dramatic style. I vaguely imagined him to be in his forties but had never expressed this.

Then, as any of my readers would know, I decided to write a short story about Kerphulu for submission to an anthology. I set the story in a mausoleum his younger days. Without too much in the way of spoilers (well, a few), the victim is a priestess with unique physical properties. Those aside, I envisaged her as statuesque with flawless caramel skin.

What would be a good image? In the story I had him doing something that I hoped was really creepy – lovingly running one finger up the naked body of the victim. Perfect!

But changes developed almost from the moment I began to pose the figures. To begin with, her leg looked better bent as if she were not fully unconscious. Then this made me want to have his hand hovering, about to touch the knee so as to push it back down.  OK – rewrite of part of story. She is not unconscious. She is struggling against the drugs within her system. Ummmm… What would this mean? Perhaps she would use her magic to try to save herself. How? Well, they are in a mausoleum. Raise the dead to save her? Ah – a completely unforseen story twist for me. I was just planning a minor fight sequence and some more creepy behaviour on Kerphulu’s part.

In adding colours I had the next revelation. All the browns in the picture made it dead boring. I needed something to counter it. I experimented. Eventually making the priestess blue came out as the best visual solution.  Naturally I had issues because this made me think of the aliens in Avatar and Mystique in X-Men. Yet that was not my intent. It was just that the colour worked well. OK. So I will go with that. Gone is her caramel skin. But what does blue sin tell me about her and how can I apply this new knowledge?

Kerphulu himself evolved. I figured that if he were younger he might have a different hair-style. Perhaps longer. I gave him a puffy shirt because I wanted to show that he perceived himself as heroic. It was white so that it almost glows at the centre of the picture. OK – I am getting a greater sense of him. He is very narcissistic. This fits in with psychopathy.

As I crafted the scene in picture form, other questions popped into my head. For example, during the “operation” would Kerphulu wear the same or different clothes? What would the lighting be like? I began to picture the entire story like it was a film within my head.

By the same token I learnt so much about his mother when I created the picture “Aurelia’s Tempting”. She was such a strong woman and a rebel against her culture and what she felt was its misplaced sense of morality. I had not realised til then that Gnosians wore masks as part of their separation from society.

So I believe that there is value in creating visual representations of scenes as well as written because:

  • It provides a visual reference for your written description
  • It permits you to assess the staging and appearance of your written scene and improve it
  • It can give you a greater “feel” for your characters
  • your subconscious will create aspects of things that you had not considered before you made the picture

Once again I will emphasise that you do not need to be a great artist to achieve this.  Just some basic skills and a determination to practice. Below is a picture that I created back in the 1990s with a scanner and a very primitive picture editor.


I was trying to create a hero. I scanned a photo of a building, a clothing model from a shop brochure and a sword from an old book. Then arranged them, applied some filters and voila. Not high art, but enough to get a sense of the man. In fact, dare I say that you could simply cut out pictures from magazines and make a collage with glue on a piece of cardboard.

Anyway, that’s my opinion.

More on Blogging 101

Well, I am happy with my “About Me” page and my “Gallery” with its image widget. I already have a custom header. So not much to do in the way of these recent assignments.




  1. There is one little free 3D app that I also find very helpful for writers:

    It features a very easy-to-use interface for building rooms with doors, windows etc. For “serious” 3D work, the meshes it generates might pose problems sometimes, but when you need to sketch a building quickly so as to avoid your characters living in Escher space, it’s hard to beat.


    1. Thanks :) That is so cool. I love simple programs and then seeing how far we can stretch them :) Thank you again :)


  2. Something kept nagging me about the name Kerphulu. It sounded familiar – but I couldn’t place it because I hardly ever go to movies and rarely watch tv. But I thought the name was similar or the same as another character, but I couldn’t place it. Today, this popped up to me on facebook. Cthulhu:
    I don’t know if you respelled and reused the name deliberately. Perhaps Kerphulu is named for Cthulhu? I have to say, I would really have to hate my child to name him for that ugly ******.


    1. Its funny you should say that. In my youth I was a big fan of H P Lovecraft. I must have subconsciously channeled the name, because now that you say it there is a similarity. Also the short story is being written in a first person way that now strikes me as Lovecraftian. Ha! Fancy that. And I did not even notice.


      1. OK. I have gone back to my early notes from 2013. Kerphulu’s name started off as the Khufu. This makes sense because I also have two other characters called Ramses and Thutmose. I think that I bastardised the name because I did not want a suggested connection between Kerphulu and the other two. Probably when I did so my subconscious kicked in as I played with syllables. How fascinating :)


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